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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Preserving quality of cancer care

Thomas A. Scully, administrator of the National Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has proposed drastic cuts in reimbursements to cancer physicians for life-saving cancer medications administered in their offices.

To make matters worse, both the Senate and the House versions of the proposed Medicare legislation to provide prescription drug coverage would also cut cancer care costs more than $500 million annually. These proposed cost cuts threaten to reduce the ability of physicians to pay for the skilled nurses and others who are needed to help patients with cancer and jeopardize critical cancer care.

The problem has arisen because Medicare and Medicaid have not paid nearly the cost for the administration of cancer treatments, so the cost of administration had to be made up by higher reimbursement for the drugs themselves. This has resulted in some cases where the reimbursement is substantially higher than the doctor pays for the drugs.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has supported legislation in Congress that would help to remedy this situation. It would not limit access of Medicare and Medicaid patients to cancer care, because it would pay for the real costs of chemotherapy, its administration, and associated patient care. This legislation is House Bill 1622, which is co-sponsored by more than 100 representatives, including our own representative, Marcy Kaptur.

Most patients and families will not hear of this negative aspect of the prescription drug coverage legislation or the proposed regulatory change until they learn that they cannot get life-saving cancer medications from their oncology physician. Marcy and our senators need to hear from us all now. Quality cancer care must be preserved.

ROLAND T. SKEEL, M.D.

Swan Creek Drive

It is puzzling that The Blade chose to criticize President Bush's appearance and speech to the National Urban League's annual convention (Editorial, “Earning the black vote,” Aug 1). Both groups are similarly respected for the services they provide; however the Urban League has been willing to host a variety of political ideas, unlike the NAACP.

The President's “typical stump speech, recognizably designed for black audiences” to the Urban League touched on the administration's goals in the areas of economics, education, and terrorism. He also addressed social ills and the role of faith institutions to a group that mainly alleviates the results of dire social conditions and which has a footing in the faith-based communities. Yet The Blade was critical of this, too. What helps America, whether it is tax cuts or homeland security, tends to help all groups, even if that is considered “old.”

Lastly, you failed to note that last month President Bush sought a meeting with Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Maryland), but Mr. Cummings very publicly declined that invitation. The President has been and will continue to “work hard” for all votes, including those of black Americans.

DEBORAH BURSTION-DONBRAYE

Outreach Director

Ohio Republican Party

Warrensville Hts., Ohio

A recent letter writer stated that eight of the Ten Commandments (other than stealing or killing) are irrelevant today.

Suppose the author of that letter was falsely accused of a crime and spent time in jail. I think he would then understand why a commandment prohibits bearing false witness.

If he had a wife whom he dearly loved and his neighbor committed adultery with her, he would understand why there are prohibitions against committing adultery and coveting your neighbor's house or wife.

The point is God gave us these commandments for our own good. God saw what the sinful heart of man can do. So he put up restraints against evil. Our laws are based on precepts found in the Bible. This is not the imposing of religion by the government upon us, but moral principles that keep society from crumbling.

Keeping church and state separate was intended by the framers of the Constitution to prevent the government from establishing a state-sponsored church. The phrase “separation of church and state” is found nowhere in the Constitution. This phrase came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists in Danbury Connecticut who voiced concerns about their religious liberties. The context of the letter was to assure them the Constitution prohibits the establishment of an official state-sponsored denomination.

Concerning religion, the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” This prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored church. It does not prohibit the expressions of religious ideas in a public forum, nor does it prohibit the application of some moral principles to facilitate a just and orderly society.

TOM HORNE

Rega Drive

In a confused and meandering July 29 column, Suzanne Fields accused the American and European left of being anti-Semites allied with “their Islamic terrorist counterparts.” Her aspersions of the left, however, could not be more incoherent and illogical.

First, there is a significant difference between a critic of Israel's current policies (particularly in the Occupied Territories), an anti-Zionist, and an anti-Semite. Ms. Fields erroneously asserted that they are one in the same. Thus, according to her, anyone who protests the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is an anti-Semite, an absurd and cruel accusation.

Moreover, she claims that because of the repression of women and intolerance of homosexuality in Palestine, women and homosexuals should not support Palestinians. Ms. Fields, however, misses the point. Women and homosexuals are certainly capable of sympathizing with an oppressed people.

Her column is littered with similar inaccuracies and flawed comparisons that fuel misunderstanding. Anti-Semitism is not acceptable; however, it is equally malicious and irresponsible to call anyone anti-Semitic when it is not warranted.

MICHAEL HEYDT

Maumee

I have been following the Lathrop House controversy with a heavy heart, in part fearing that the house will be lost, but perhaps, more so, because its existence continues to generate such opposition and strife into the 21st century.

Given the expense, is it not possible for the church to build around it, leaving it in place? I attended Catholic elementary schools in the Dayton area. If such a significant piece of national history - a living museum - had stood on my school grounds it would have been a source of tremendous inspiration and learning.

I heard some parishioners comment that their children's education should not suffer because of the Lathrop House. In my opinion, tearing it down or viewing it as a nuisance to be moved accomplishes just that. In this day of rampant development, a reinforcing message is sent to children.

Callous disregard is characteristic of development policies even within religious “communities.” Selfishness is underscored.

In contrast, children today and in the generations to come would arrive at school daily to see living testimony to another time and to the principles and bravery of people who risked everything, even their own lives, to do what was right.

How could that possibly compromise one's education?

EILEEN METRESS

Paisley Road

Helping children of farm laborers

Hats off to those involved in the Ohio Migrant Education Program for providing a positive learning experience for the children of farm laborers. I applaud their work. Shame on the farmers guilty of providing deplorable living conditions for these families. Chances are the farmers' pets live in better conditions. Where's their conscience?

BETH WEBER

Archbold, Ohio



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